Are cramps caused by lack of salt?

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Nikki Green

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« on: 09/09/2009 13:30:03 »
Nikki Green asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hi there, always listen to your show on Cape Talk, and would like to know about cramps in your muscles.  Most people say that if you get these severe cramps pulling in your muscles, that you need salt, but I believe it is the opposite, you are having too much salt, what is fact, and what is fiction ?

Please settle a discussion around this :-) thankyouuuuuuuu Nikki

What do you think?

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #1 on: 12/09/2009 23:22:25 »
When I was young I used to suffer from bad night cramps in my thigh muscles. The doctor said it was due to a lack of salt. My salt intake was duly increased and the cramps stopped. Obviously then, for me, it was lack of salt that was the cause of the cramps.
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Offline JimBob

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #2 on: 13/09/2009 09:34:06 »
Same for me. Mine was a potassium deficiency due to a medication I was taking. The nerves use calcium, magnesium and potassium to conduct nerve impulses. If the layer of the electrolites (Ca, Mg and K salts) around the nerves is depleted, nerves miss-fire resulting in cramping muscles.
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Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #3 on: 13/09/2009 14:30:26 »
Table salt is sodium chloride though, not potassium, magnesium or calcium. So why does taking more salt help?

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Offline that mad man

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #4 on: 13/09/2009 21:31:59 »
Earlier this year I started suffering from leg cramps at night and was prescribed quinine sulphate for the condition.

I don't know if it worked as I had to stop taking it after 3 days as it left a very bitter taste in my mouth that was hard to get rid of. This effected the taste of all food and drink and also made me feel a bit nauseous. I was later surprise to learn that quinine has been banned in the USA for this use because of its side effects.  [>:(]

I don't use salt or add any extra to my diet and the doctor never suggested it was due to lack of salt as blood tests showed no deficiencies. Glad to say the cramps stopped after 2-3 weeks without any extra intervention.


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Offline Don_1

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #5 on: 14/09/2009 08:53:54 »
I usually find a visit to the local clinic will sort out this problem Ooo, no terribly sorry, that's crabs.

I would have thought that with so much salt being used in pre-prepared, pre-packed foods, that cramp would be quite rare now, if, that is, that cramp is due to salt deficiency.

Perhaps our very own empirical sheepy could carry out some tests. I'm sure his neighbour would be a very unwilling guinea pig.
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Offline Nizzle

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #6 on: 14/09/2009 10:10:02 »
Salt intake might help get rid of your cramps, because Natrium (sodium for the english speakers) is one of the two very important electrolytes that help propagate electric signals in nerves (Kalium, ie potassium being the other one).

Cramps mostly have a neurological cause rather than a muscular one.
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Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #7 on: 06/10/2009 10:51:38 »
So sodium can substitute for potassium for people with a potassium deficiency?

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Offline Bored chemist

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #8 on: 06/10/2009 20:01:55 »

I was later surprise to learn that quinine has been banned in the USA for this use because of its side effects.  [>:(]



What, no gin and tonic?
Remind me never to go there.

It might be worth a mention that some cramps- those due to too much exercise are caused by a build up of lactic acid caused, in turn, by a lack of adequate oxygen.
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Offline that mad man

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #9 on: 07/10/2009 00:20:24 »
Its banned in the USA for use in leg cramps but still used for other ailments and its quantity is limited in tonic water. Just found out that all bitter substances are rated relative to quinine, with an index of 1.  [:o

Tonic water..Yuk! I like Gin and 7up though. [;D]


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Offline Nizzle

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #10 on: 13/10/2009 09:11:11 »
So sodium can substitute for potassium for people with a potassium deficiency?

Nope,

You'll need both!
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Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #11 on: 13/10/2009 12:42:42 »
Well then why would increased salt intake cure Jimbob's potassium deficiency?

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Offline Nizzle

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #12 on: 14/10/2009 14:31:46 »
Increased salt intake means higher water retention, which in turn means higher potassium retention.

Nerves need potassium ions. The concentration of potassium ions is less important than their presence.
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Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Are cramps caused by lack of salt?
« Reply #13 on: 14/10/2009 18:35:40 »
Ah, I see.